WSJ on *Fair Use*-Congress Needs to Clarify Copyright Laws-About the Viacom/Google LawsuitSomervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


 

WSJ on *Fair Use*-Congress Needs to Clarify Copyright Laws-About the Viacom/Google Lawsuit
 


22 March 2007 at 7:39:37 PM
salon

As this author says, why should we have to guess what is meant?

The issue: Viacom wants to get paid more than Google wants to pay it for all of those fuzzy, two-minute clips from programs like "The Daily Show" that users post to YouTube. The companies tried to negotiate a deal, but the talks failed, so Viacom is suing for $1 billion.

As a nonlawyer, I think these clips seem like "fair use," an old copyright concept that seems to have weakened under the advent of the new laws. Under fair use, as most nonlawyers have understood it, you could quote this sentence in another publication without permission, though you'd need the permission of the newspaper to reprint the entire column or a large part of it. A two-minute portion of a 30-minute TV show seems like the same thing to me.

But why should I have to guess about that? What consumers need is real clarity on the whole issue of what is or isn't permissible use of the digital content they have legally obtained. And that can come only from Congress. Congress is the real villain here, for having failed to pass a modern copyright law that protects average consumers, not just big content companies.

We need a new digital copyright law that would draw a line between modest sharing of a few songs or video clips and the real piracy of mass distribution. We need a new law that would define fair use for the digital era and lay out clearly the rights of consumers who pay for digital content, as well as the rights and responsibilities of Internet companies.

If you don't like all of the restrictions on the use of digital content, the solution isn't to steal the stuff. A better course is to pressure Congress to pass a new copyright law, one that protects the little guy and the Internet itself.


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